Wednesday, June 05, 2002

Theological Foray #9: Can We Live Both the American Dream and Obey God's Will?

I think I have pretty much the same desires as any other guy. I'd like to get my degree (and any further ones if necessary) and get a job that I enjoy and that pays reasonably well. I'm considering the military, but it's not my first choice. I'd like to marry a girl shortly after I graduate with my terminal degree, spend a few years being a starry-eyed young couple, and then start a family somewhere between ages 25 and 30. I'd like to have three or four kids, a dog, my own home, job security, and a productive hobby like car maintenance (or perhaps Biblical archaeology, like Indiana Jones' father...maybe not...). I'd like to send all my children through whatever it takes to get them to their first job, and then live a happy semi-retired life with my wife, with maybe a garden with daffodils and honeysuckles on the back fence. I think it's pretty reasonable, and is just about what most people want out of life.

However, I'm not sure that this ideal is what God wants. Jesus and the disciples lived a pretty austere life, and were told to even reject their families. Several times they went out as beggars with only one tunic apiece. Then we have Paul, who in his letters says to marry only if you think you can't restrain yourself from sex. Looking over lives of the saints, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Mother Teresa seem to be the ideals. St. Thomas More is admirable, and while he certainly was a true martyr, I'm not sure that he lived the gospel to the fullest (I'm not trying to attack his credentials, since I'm sure that St. Francis et al. weren't perfect, either), since he was rich. It seems as if the only way to truly live the gospel is to go dirt-poor and serve others. There's certainly room for Christians in positions of power, but it almost seems as if they're not on the same level. While I don't believe in continuous reincarnation, it reminds me of Hinduism, with St. Francis being at the stage just before Nirvana, and St. Thomas More being a step or two away. Since we've only got one shot, a near-miss is unacceptable.

I think I'm lucky in that I have a grasp on at least one solid interpretation of the Bible. However, I don't know, and I hope it isn't the only way to fulfil what we're commanded to do. Given the chance, I'd like to have a family and also do God's work. This is definitely one area where Comments are heavily solicited, and will be greatly appreciated.

p.s. I know that St. Francis et al. weren't perfect, but I was using him as the ideal of a poor, suffering servant. I'm also not sure if Nirvana is a Hindu or Buddhist concept, but I hope my point was conveyed well enough.

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